United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday officially stepped down as the leader of her Conservative Party, but will remain the prime minister until the party chooses her successor, AFP reported. May had announced the date of her resignation two weeks ago after having failed to get the MPs’ approval for a Brexit deal.
Eleven Conservative MPs, including former foreign minister Boris Johnson, are in the race to succeed May. Some are expected to drop out before Monday’s deadline for nominations, according to AFP. A new leader is likely to be chosen by late July.
May’s successor will have until the end of October to decide the future of the United Kingdom in the European Union. The UK’s exit from the trade bloc was due on March 29, but has been delayed twice because May was unable to get the terms of the exit approved in Parliament. Brexit is now due on October 31 – and without a consensus, the country will have to choose to delay it again or leave the EU without an agreement at all.
“She remains prime minister for a good few weeks yet,” May’s spokesperson said. He said the successor must meet Queen Elizabeth II and assure the monarch they have the support of enough lawmakers to take over.
The spokesperson added that May would now focus on domestic issues and said “in relation to Brexit, the prime minister said it wouldn’t be for her to take this process forward”.
While announcing her decision on May 24, May had said that she had done her best to make a success of Brexit but had failed to convince members of Parliament to back her deal. “I negotiated the terms of our exit,” she had said. “I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly I have not been able to do so. It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret for me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit.”
The prime minister was moved to tears as she ended her statement on May 24. “Our politics may be under strain but there is so much that is good about this country, so much to be proud of,” she had said, adding that she was grateful to have served her country.
May took over as prime minister in 2016 after the resignation of David Cameron following the Brexit referendum. However, she faced repeated opposition from Parliament over finalising a Brexit deal about how, when or whether to leave the European bloc.
The UK and the European have differed over the terms of an Irish backstop, which is a “safety net” to preserve a border without customs and regulatory checks. British and European Union leaders had earlier committed to avoiding a “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit. Pro-Brexit leaders in May’s Conservative Party insist that the backstop would make it impossible for Britain to leave the European Union.